As Zimbabwe’s Opposition remains in disarray and continues to struggle to form a Grand Coalition to challenge Zanu PF’s dominance in the 2018 General Elections. And despite President Mugabe’s refusal to retire anytime soon, it can clearly be seen from his frail nonagenarian appearance in his recent 93rd birthday party pictures that a forced transition caused by the law of nature is already in full swing. From that perspective, it is then only right and indeed our moral obligation to take an in-depth look at the probable future presidency of Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, the man heavily tipped by many Zimbabweans to likely succeed President Mugabe.
Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa is one of the two Vice Presidents in Zimbabwe under the leadership of President Mugabe. He is said to be one of the most powerful figures in the ruling ZANU-PF party and is thought to be the Chairman of the powerful Joint Operations Command, a secretive gathering of powerful military generals. Mnangagwa is seen by many as the front runner to succeed President Robert Mugabe who is battling illness and frailty caused by old age.
Mnangagwa was born on 15 September 1942 and is now 74 years old , compared to President Mugabe who is 93 years old. Due to his younger age than Mugabe, Mnangagwa can actually afford to play the waiting game and then takeover the presidency when Mugabe exits the political stage. Since the expulsion of former Vice President Joice Mujuru from Zanu PF in 2014, Mnangagwa has become the hot favorite to succeed President Mugabe and it seems he intends to take advantage of it by becoming the next president.
The Dilemma of a Mnangagwa Presidency to most Zimbabweans and the world at large is; what is it going to look like if he manages to succeed President Mugabe? Is he going to become a dictator? Or is he going to be a reformer? What is not in doubt for a lot of Zimbabweans is that Mnangagwa is a shrewd politician who has over the last 50 years managed to gradually climb the Zanu Pf political ladder from the bottom to the second most important position in the party.
Since Mnangagwa has been the front runner after Mujuru’s expulsion in 2014 , he has come under increasing pressure from another faction in Zanu PF called G40 which has been throwing obstacles on his path to State House to become President. As a shrewd political operator, he has utilized the game of chess as a platform to formulate his strategies to defend and attack his political opponents.
In chess the king in the form of Mnangagwa is the most important piece and every other piece can be sacrificed in defence of the king, hence staunch allies like war veterans leader Christopher Mutsvangwa have been expelled from Zanu PF for defending him. And as G40 members like Grace , Professor Jonathan Moyo and Mandi Chimene have attacked him , Mnangagwa has defended himself via his ‘pawns’ in the form of war veterans like Chris Mutsvangwa , Douglas Mahiya and Victor Matendamanda .
This strategy of defence is the basis of the Chess Game were the King is protected by pawns when he is attacked by opponents. And when the King is on the offensive , he also leverages on the ‘pawns’ to attack on his behalf hence you hear allies like Godfrey Tsenengamu and Energy Mutodi attacking G40 and even launching direct verbal salvos on President Mugabe himself.
Since it will not be politically attainable for Mnangagwa to retain his positions as Mugabe’s Deputy in Government and the party if he publicly acknowledges his Lacoste allies verbal attacks on the President and G40, as a shrewd politician he has always denied that his Lacoste allies speak on his behalf, leaving his opponents like G40 and Grace with no legs to stand on. As a shrewd leader of the Lacoste faction, Mnangagwa hosted a Christmas party last year for his allies and expelled Zanu PF supporters to show them his loyalty, appreciation and to motivate his base for the battle ahead.
The continued verbal attacks by Mnangagwa’s allies on President Mugabe and G40 are designed to shock and weaken his opponents while enhancing his reputation and portraying him as a worthy successor to Mugabe. And since G40 has failed to expel Mnangagwa from Zanu PF after using every trick in the book, it has left many Zimbabweans with no option but to seriously think of a future Zimbabwe under a Mnangagwa presidency.
Since independence, Mnangagwa has mostly held powerful ministerial portfolios in the security sector and this has helped to cement his other reputation as a strongman. And during the dark era of Gukurahundi in the 1980s, he was the State Security Minister and he was also the Defense Minister during the Government of National Unity.
This close association with the security and intelligence sector has resulted in his political opponents pointing out that Mnangagwa is the enforcer of President Mugabe’s brutal and coercive tactics. Therefore , his political opponents have used Mnangagwa’s close association with the security and intelligence services to argue that a his presidency is likely to be worse than Mugabe’s long rule.
His opponents have strongly argued that a Mnangagwa presidency is likely to be a dictatorship based on his close association with the military and him being an ardent student of Mugabe’s rule which has been enmeshed in brutality and strong arm tactics.
Mnangagwa has also been quoted several times at Zanu PF rallies using intimidation tactics like warning people not to expect assistance from government if they support MDC. He has also reportedly warned people in rural areas that if Zanu PF loses elections it will return to war so people must vote wisely to maintain peace.
Mnangagwa’s opponents have pointed to his intimidation and coercion tactics as proof that he will walk on dead bodies in order to get elected and transform himself into a dictator who will not listen or care about people’s needs and demands.
Recently, Mnangagwa’s Justice Ministry has been pushing via the courts and parliament for a Constitutional Amendment to give the President the sole power to appoint the Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice and President of the High court.
Legal experts and prominent jurists have criticised this move as an attempt by the executive to undermine the independence of Zimbabwe’s Judiciary. Mnangagwa opponents have argued that this points to a dictator in the making who is not comfortable with an independent judiciary.
However, supporters of Vice President Mnangagwa have vigorously argued that he is a reformer who will implement economic and political reforms if he succeeds President Mugabe. Mnangagwa’s supporters have further pointed out to his interview on China Television in 2015 as proof that not only is he a reformer but he is a man who knows what needs to be done to get Zimbabwe to be the jewel of Africa again.
In a clear departure of previous Mugabe deputies who buried their heads in the sand, Mnangagwa in the interview conceded that Zimbabwe had fallen far behind other countries in terms of development, ‘saying the government needs to swallow its pride and review some controversial economic policies to attract foreign investment’. Mnangagwa further went on to say government will have to literally “bite the bullet” for the country to catch up with its African peers.
The above statement from Mnangagwa was unprecedented as it was a public but a rare admission from a Mugabe deputy that things were not well in Zimbabwe. And that he even went further to urge the Government of which he is part of, to ‘bite the bullet’ and reform shows that he wants to differentiate himself from Mugabe as a future leader who knows what he is talking about.
Based on this interview, why would a whole Vice President urge the government of which he is part of, to ‘review some of its economic policies’? The answer may lay in that Mnangagwa is simply telling the world that he knows what is wrong in Zimbabwe but he is powerless to effect change because Mugabe is an impediment to progress. The other perspective is that in the interview, Mnangagwa was also portraying to the world that he is a reformer and that Zimbabwe will be in good hands under his leadership if he succeeds Mugabe.
The China angle comes into play in the same interview as Mnangagwa also said Zimbabwe needed to go through a vigorous reform process as happened in China following the death of the late communist dictator Mao Zedong in 1976 leading to its near-miraculous transformation into the world’s second largest economy inside three decades. Mnangagwa’s supporters have pointed out that he respects Mugabe as the founding father of Zimbabwe , the same as Chinese respect Mao Zedong as the founding father of China , hence he knows that economic and political reforms can only happen in the post Mugabe era.
Mnangagwa supporters have argued that as an ardent student of Chinese history , Mnangagwa sees himself as the Deng Xiaoping of Zimbabwe , the famous Chinese leader who reformed China. Deng Xiaoping, who after Mao Zedong’s death, led China through far-reaching market-economy reforms which led to China’s near-miraculous transformation into the world’s second largest economy inside three decades.
Mnangagwa’s supporters have also argued that he firmly believes in Deng Xiaoping’s famous saying that ; ‘it does not matter the color of the cat as long as it catches mice’, simply meaning it does not matter what economic model you use as long as it works. This belief by Mnangagwa forms the basis of his encouragement for government to reform when he urges it ‘to swallow its pride and review some controversial economic policies to attract foreign investment’.
Mnangagwa lost parliamentary elections twice to little known MDC candidate Blessing Chebundo in the Kwekwe Central seat and graciously accepted defeat while his other adversaries’ were quick to challenge election loses in court. Mnangagwa supporters have pointed that his acceptance of the election outcome shows that he is a democrat at heart who will actually institute political reforms under his presidency.
Term Limit Factor
Mugabe has managed to consolidate power and manipulate state institutions because he has been ruling Zimbabwe for a long-time. However, the new Constitution which came into effect in 2013 has term limits; for the president and senior government officials like service chiefs. The new term limits only allow for the incumbent to occupy the position for a maximum of two five year terms.
And the most important aspect of the term limits is that they are almost impossible to change as they require a two-thirds majority vote in parliament plus a national referendum. Moreover, the majority of Zimbabweans including most Zanu PF supporters will not vote for the term limits to be extended for any individual, especially after experiencing Mugabe’s long ruinous rule.
The term limit factor is likely to influence a Mnangagwa presidency to excise restraint and reform so that he could win elections in a fair manner. Although a Mnangagwa presidency will appoint loyalists to critical positions but because the appointees will know that the institutions will outlast the appointing authority, Zimbabwe’s institutions are going to be independent and resistant to political meddling.
Founding Father Factor
The fact that Mugabe is the founding father of Zimbabwe comes with respect and power which has enabled him to be Zimbabwe ruler for a long-time. A Mnangagwa presidency is going to command less popularity and less respect, which will likely force him into a coalition government. Mnangagwa will be held to account by coalition partners, forcing him to reform and run a more transparent government.
The African leaders especially in the SADC region have largely treated the Zimbabwe Crisis with kid gloves largely because Mugabe is a revered African Icon recognised worldwide for fighting white domination and credited for bringing black majority rule. But in the post Mugabe era , SADC with the full support from the African Union and the United Nations is likely to put its foot down to demand irreversible economic and political reforms in Zimbabwe. This stance by SADC and the World at large will force a Mnangagwa presidency to reform and seek alliances with other political parties so that he could win an election in a free, fair and transparent manner. A coalition government led by Mnangagwa is likely to institute far fetching political and economic reforms to win support from the people of Zimbabwe so that he can stay in power.
In conclusion, the Dilemma of a Mnangagwa Presidency to most people in Zimbabwe is literally a toss between him becoming a dictator or a reformer. However as per the above observation, Mnangagwa will likely not become a dictator due to overwhelming internal and external factors.
But more importantly, Mnangagwa’s hand is likely to be forced to become a reformer by the following internal and external factors:
- SADC and the world will demand reforms
- Term Limits will limit his influence beyond ten years
- Strong Institutions will provide checks and balances
- As the second president he will have diminishing influence compared to the founding father
Last but not least, if the Mnangagwa presidency was to happen, he will be forced to become a reformer because of the environment and conditions prevailing at that time. But in the absence of the above internal and external factors, Mnangagwa will more likely turn out to be a dictator, who will simply carry on the tried and tested strong arm tactics of Robert Mugabe.
The Writer : Darlington Nyambiya is the President of the Local Solutions Council (LSC) , a leading Zimbabwe Think Tank. The LSC is a Think Tank with members from diverse Zimbabwean communities in politics, business , religion and sports. He is also a Pro Democracy Activist , Political Strategist , Human Rights Defender , Social Media Commentator , Writer and a Business Executive. Contact Details – Mobile Number : +44 74 823 56315 , Twitter handle: D_Nyambiya, Email :firstname.lastname@example.org , Corporate Twitter Handle : lsc_thinktank ,Website :www.localsolutionscouncil.com. Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved. The Article may not be published or reproduced in any form without prior written permission